On 1 August, Dhanalakshmi Sembulingam – known as Dhana – decided to join her friends for a day of hiking on the tails in the gorge along the Niagara River. Dhana, an international student from India, was studying business management at Lambton College in Toronto.
It was a was a warm Sunday afternoon and at some stage Dhana and a friend decided to go for a swim in the river. Very quickly she began having difficulty in the strong current and her male friend tried to help her. He was swept away.
At about 5:00pm emergency services started getting 911 calls of swimmers in difficulty in the water. Officers from the Niagara Regional Police Service and the Niagara Parks Police responded. They quickly pulled Dhana from the water in a critical condition and tried to resuscitate her. With the help of one of the commercial jet boat operators she was taken to the docks in Queenston where efforts to revive here continued. She was then taken to a local hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
Lambton College arranged a memorial service for Dhana on 13 August.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched to support the costs of returning Dhana to India so her family can see her one last time. It explains the devastating impact of her death.
Dhana’s family lives in Thirumayam (Pudukottai), a village in Tamil Nadu, India. Dhana was the “light in their lives”. They wanted her to have a good education and supported her study in Canada with an education loan. They also expected her to support her younger sister for her education and career in the coming years.
Too many international student drowning deaths
This latest tragic incident, follows several other international student drowning deaths in Canada in 2021:
- 28 July – an international student drowned while swimming with friends in White Lake, BC
- 25 July – Mohammed Najib Sadek Kashem Chowdhury, a 25-year-old international student at the University of Ottawa, drowned on 25 July while swimming with friends near the Wakefield Covered Bridge on the Gatineau River.
- 27 June – Anmol Sharma, a 20-year-old international student at Canada’s Georgian College, went swimming with two friends at Port Sydney Falls, north of Toronto.
- 12 June – Gurpreet Singh Gill, a 22 year old international student, drowned at the Wasaga Beach Area 2.
Learn about water safety in Canada
On average over 450 people die in drowning incidents in Canada every year. International students are more likely to drown than others.
It could save your life.
Source: Niagara Regional Police Service